Friday, 2 January 2015

Londonderry's First Fire Station

The property now known as 1A Hawkin Street, Londonderry is situate just outside the City Walls adjacent to New Gate. The then vacant site was demised to the City Corporation by the Irish Society for a term of nine hundred and ninety years from 25th March 1881 by a lease dated 3rd December 1885. This lease reserved an annual ground rent of ten shillings and was granted pursuant to the terms of an agreement to lease dated 26th September 1882. It was a pre condition to the granting of the lease that the Corporation should construct an eight foot high wall around the site. The term of years granted by the lease is conditional upon the property being used for, "public purposes for the benefit of the Citizens of Londonderry."


The Corporation constructed a two storey red brick gabled fire station on the site. This was completed in 1891 and was the first fire station in the City. The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society state that it is the only surviving example of a late nineteenth century Fire Station in Northern Ireland. The building is listed B1 and is situated within a conservation area. It was considerably damaged by fire in 2006 but has since been renovated with a substantial extension having been added on the right hand side where previously an electricity sub station had existed since 1963.


When it was built the station was staffed by three permanent fire fighters who were assisted by a number of auxiliaries. The initial fire appliance was mounted on a hand drawn cart but this was superceced by a motorised fire engine in 1908. This was the first motorised fire engine in Ireland. One of the first blazes which it attended was that of April 1908 when the Guildhall was gutted.


During the Second World War the City's Fire Brigade was incorporated into the National Fire Service. Post 1945 responsibility for fire fighting in the City rested with the Western Fire Authority and they moved to premises at the Waterside end of Craigavon Bridge. The Northern Ireland Fire Authority replaced the Western Fire Authority in 1950 and in 1961 the local fire brigade moved into purpose built premises on the Northland Road.


Sources: DOE Historic Buildings database; Ulster Architectural Heritage Society


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